Cartoons

Going for a song (dynasty)?

“Did we forget to invite the Chinese billionaires?”

The Economist magazine called it the “greatest collection of Chinese treasures still in private hands in the West”, so expectations were high that Sotheby’s auction of the Meiyintang collection would smash records. After all, recent sales of Chinese arts and antiques have regularly outperformed, as the country’s new rich bring prized artefacts back to their homeland.

But it wasn’t to be. As the Wall Street Journal put it the day after the Hong Kong auction: “For once Chinese buyers don’t bite.” Presale estimates for the porcelain on offer – much of which was from the Ming and Qing Dynasties – were a HK$1.07 billion total ($137 million). But key items failed to reach their reserve prices and the auctioneer raised only HK$399 million before the final gavel dropped. Sotheby’s later announced that the most prized item – the Falangcai pheasant vase – was sold privately (after the showroom sale) for HK$200 million, only marginally above the HK$180 million reserve price.

Disappointing results nevertheless: the event will be seen as a bearish economic indicator by some.


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